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Refunds, returns and recourse: When the 'perfect' online gift ends up being anything but

Federal law regulates retailers when it comes to shipping and returns
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Posted at 10:30 AM, Dec 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-23 18:28:13-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Holiday sales are expected to top a record $843 billion this year. Many of those purchases will be made online. Taking Action reporter Jackie Callaway has everything you need to know should those internet deals never actually arrive at your doorstep.

Millions of holiday shoppers apparently love the sound of the delivery driver's door knock. The National Retail Federation predicts more than 40% of consumers will do their gift buying online.

But what about those not-so-perfect presents that need to be returned? Reputable retailers make returns easy. But for those who don't, federal law covers most online orders. The Federal Trade Commission mandates sellers give you a refund within seven days of accepting the return.

What if the seller refuses?

The Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips:

The Better Business has a scam tracker that you can use to see if any of the retailers are on that list. Consumers can use www.bbb.org to view reviews and even the business's complaint history to determine if others have complained about problem returns.

The historic supply chain gridlock will no doubt lead to late deliveries but what if your order never arrives?

Federal law stipulates that sellers ship your order within their specified time frame. If they did not provide a time frame, the store must send the package within 30 days and you have the right to cancel and request a refund.

If you run into trouble try these moves:

  • Message the retailer on social media. You may get a faster response than calling or writing a letter. 
  • File a dispute with your credit card, Most offer protections for cardholder purchases.
  • Complain to the FTC at www.ftc.gov and the BBB at www.bbb.org.